High energy laser (HEL) weapons are ready for some of today’s most challenging military applications. For example, the Airborne Laser (ABL) program is designed to defend against Theater Ballistic Missiles in a tactical war scenario. Similarly, the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) program is currently testing a laser to defend against rockets and other tactical weapons. The Space Based Laser (SBL), Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) and Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) programs promise even greater applications for laser weapons. This technology overview addresses both strategic and tactical roles for HEL weapons on the modern battlefield and examines current technology limited performance of weapon systems components, including various laser device types, beam control systems, atmospheric propagation, and target lethality issues. The characteristics, history, basic hardware, and fundamental performance of chemical lasers, solid state lasers and free electron lasers are summarized and compared. The elements of beam control, including the primary aperture, fast steering mirror, deformable mirrors, wavefront sensors, beacons and illuminators will be discussed with an emphasis on typical and required performance parameters. The effects of diffraction, atmospheric absorption, scattering, turbulence and thermal blooming phenomenon on irradiance at the target are described. Finally, lethality criteria and measures of weapon effectiveness are addressed. The primary purpose of the presentation is to define terminology, establish key performance parameters, and summarize technology capabilities.